Help Save Hacker Dojo

by Patricia Salber

Hacker Dojo's Random Hacks of Kindness
Hacker Dojo's Random Hacks of Kindness

Ok, you have to love an organization with the name Hacker Dojo.  It conjures up so many different visual images.  But seriously, dear readers, this is an organization that needs (and deserves) your help raising money on Kickstarter.  Here’s the story:

Founded just three years ago, Hacker Dojo is the home to over 300 hackers pooling together to rent warehouse space in Mountain View, California. Hacker Dojo has has created hundreds of jobs and provided resources for technical people and entrepreneurs. It was the home of notable startups like Pinterest, Pebble Watches, and Word Lens. It is also home to classes and conferences, most of them free to the public.

At $100 a month Hacker Dojo has turned out to be quite a bargain in education and culture.  It experienced phenomenal growth that prompted them to double their campus size twice.

The latest expansion, however, proved to be a bit more exciting than they expected. Mountain View city officials, uncomfortable with the number and sizes of the classes being offered, shut down more than half the space, leaving the Dojo responsible for a quarter of a million dollars in upgrades and renovations before they would be permitted to teach classes with more than 49 people again or use the other two buildings.

The reason? The Dojo’s space was not originally zoned for assembly purposes, like a school or a church would be, so the Dojo was left with the choice of abandoning large portions of its educational mission, or having to swallow a hefty price tag for the upgrades.

The Underwear Fundraiser

Since late January, the center has been fundraising to bring its buildings up to city code, as well as let Dojo members use the two buildings shut down by the city.  Impressively, the Dojo has already raised $129,000 of the $250,000 from corporate sponsors including Andreessen Horowitz, AT&T, Palantir, Microsoft, and Google, and private fundraisers held by volunteers, even having 50 members of the community strip down and run a mile in their underwear.

So far 243 backers have pledged almost $14,000 to the Dojo’s Kickstarter campaign.    What’s unique about this campaign is not how much money people give or how much more the Dojo needs, but rather how many individuals from the community have stepped up to help, and the different incentives they have offered to get others to contribute as well.

Hackerspace leader Mitch Altman has donated Trippy 100 LED kits for makers who want to solder. Artist Melody Lu has promised a large mural of tech savvy dinosaurs; backers choose what cell phone or computer the reptiles use. Al Alcorn, who designed Pong, the first video game, has offered to sign an original Super Pong Machine, and if the donor is local, to shake hands as a way of thanking them personally. Rajesh Setty has offered to donate and sign over 100 copies of his new book, Upbeat, and instructors whose classes cost money have offered credits to be a student. The Dojo Kickerstarter campaign must raise a total of $30,000 by August 25 in order to get any of the money.

We have always intended to serve the community,” says Katy Levinson, who serves as Director of Development, “But we are truly impressed and touched by the outpouring of support we have seen.

I hope you will join in and support Hacker Dojo – a community resource for all of us. Here is the link to tbeir Kickstarter campaign.

(Thanks to my buddy, Akhsar Kharebov, for giving me a heads up about  this story.)


Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the founder and host of The Doctor Weighs In. She is also the CEO of Health Tech Hatch, the sister site of TDWI that helps innovators tell their stories to the world. She is also a physician executive who has worked in all aspects of healthcare including practicing emergency physician, health plan executive, consultant to employers, CMS, and other organizations. She is a Board Certified Internist and Emergency Physician who loves to write about just about anything that has to do with healthcare.